7 Things to Know About Your Pets and COVID-19

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By Kali Coleman, Best Life

By this point in the coronavirus pandemic, you probably know the basics of how COVID-19 can spread among humans and what steps to take to protect yourself. But what can you do when it comes to your furry friends? With news stories popping up about animals who've tested positive, owners certainly have questions about how the coronavirus can affect their pets. For those of you looking to keep the non-human members of your family safe during this unprecedented time, we've gathered the coronavirus pet facts that every caring owner should know.


1. People can infect their pets.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the first case of an animal testing positive for the coronavirus happened at a zoo in New York City. The CDC believes that a tiger—who was tested after showing symptoms of a respiratory illness—was infected by a zoo employee, noting that the human-to-animal spread can happen "in some situations."


2. One dog infected with the coronavirus has died.

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So far, there's only one report of the death of a pet who had previously tested positive for the coronavirus. The pet in question was a 17-year-old Pomeranian dog in Hong Kong who was in the care of an infected owner, per the South China Morning Post. However, the publication reported that experts don't believe the dog died because of COVID-19—and, in fact, had had two negative tests after being quarantined and before returning home. What's much more likely is that the pup succumbed to old age and other existing conditions.


3. Most dogs don't develop any symptoms even if infected.

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If your dog is infected with the coronavirus, it's unlikely that you will know. According to the American Kennel Club, the first dog to test positive for the coronavirus in the United States was a pug in North Carolina who only experienced mild symptoms. And that Pomeranian in Hong Kong? It never showed any symptoms, nor did another dog in the city who tested positive.


4. Pets aren't being regularly tested for the virus.

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If you're thinking about running to the vet to get your pet tested for COVID-19, think again. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), routine testing of animals for the coronavirus is not recommended, nor is it taking place. In order to test an animal for the virus, local, state, or federal public health officials have to make that decision with animal health officials. Your veterinarian may be able to evaluate your pet, but if they believe it should be tested they have to contact the appropriate authorities, who will make the call.


5. Pets shouldn't be around other pets right now.

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However, just because positive cases in pets are (so far) symptomless and few and far between doesn't mean you should continue letting your pet hang out at the dog park. Dogs are inherently social creatures, but pet meetups should be put on pause during the pandemic. And this is mainly for human safety, as pets can indirectly enable the spread from person to person.

"In the very rare chance that [a] person that you encounter was an asymptomatic carrier and [their] dog was carrying the virus on their fur, [they] could pass the virus to your dog's fur and then on to you," Sara Ochoa, DVM, a veterinary consultant for DogLab, told Best Life earlier this month. So your pet should be staying in and avoiding contact as much as you are.


6. It's unlikely that your pet can get you sick.

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It can't hurt to take precautions, but don't lie awake at night worrying about catching COVID-19 from your pet. In the report referenced earlier, the CDC stated that there is currently "no evidence that animals are playing a significant role" in the pandemic. However, this doesn't mean you can be lax with your health habits when you're around your furry pals. The CDC still recommends that you wash your hands after dealing with animals or their belongings and that you properly clean up after your pet and take care of their needs.


7. Cleaning to prevent coronavirus spread can be harmful to your pet.

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The fact that your buddy could contract COVID-19 may worry you into a cleaning frenzy. However, Jamie Bacharach, head of practice at Acupuncture Jerusalem reminds pet owners to be very careful when it comes to trying to wipe out the virus on surfaces. In an attempt to sanitize your pet's belongings, you may actually make them sick.

"Chemical sanitizers and disinfectants can powerfully eliminate germs, but that doesn't mean they're safe to use on objects that your pet will then be chewing on or otherwise putting in their mouth," she says. "Make certain you're using a natural cleaner on your pet products to keep your pet safe and avoid chemical ingestion."

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